Only A Hippopotamus Will Do!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Animals, Animals’ Habitats

Language Arts: Literature, Storytelling

Social Studies – World Cultures (Egypt)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Egyptian Art

Sculpture, Forms, Color Theory, Illustration

During this holiday season, I’ve heard the song, “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” multiple times. I first heard it on my favorite country singer, Kacey Musgraves’, “A Very Kacey Christmas” album. Then, I heard it sung by other artists on the radio and even on a commercial. I took this as a sign to introduce you to William the Hippo, the unofficial mascot for the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.


This figurine is modeled from a quartz substance called faience. The sculpture was found in an Egyptian tomb with three missing legs. Vandals, one might think, but, in actuality, the legs were broken off on purpose. The hippopotamus was a dangerous animal in this time period. You see, the hippo could come up out of the water at any time and capsize the Egyptian’s fishing boats. Evidently, it was also believed that this creature could impede a person’s journey to the after life. Thus, the inclusion of a hippo with three broken off legs in a tomb. You can read more about William and play some interactive games here. The patterns found on this sculpture represent plant life found along the Nile River where the hippopotami live.

William and his story could be introduced in correlation with a science animal unit. In my teaching days, I remember second grade studied animals and their habitats. One can as easily introduce animals to students through art as with photos or textbooks.William could be an inspiration for a variation on an animal report. Students could create an outline of their chosen animal, then add patterns of plant life or objects found in the animal’s habitat onto the body of the animal. Lastly, they could watercolor paint the animal’s body in a color of the student’s choosing. Find some other animal inspired art here.

William could also be introduced in a Social Studies unit on Countries Around the World.

Why not totally immerse your students in the study of William the Hippo by also including him in Storytime/Literature in your classroom.  I was first introduced to William the Hippo in a picture book entitled A Tale of Two Williams by Diana Goldin. It is a story about a lost young boy named William who is shown around the Met by William the Hippo. Recently, I’ve learned of two other books including the faience hippo. They are The Little Blue Hippo by Géraldine Elschner and the folk tale, The Blue Faience Hippopotamus by Joan Grant. The story of the blue faience hippo is also told here and by a wonderful story teller here

I hope you are as excited about William the Hippo as I am and will use him to enrich some part of your curriculum. I’d love to hear your thoughts on William and ways you might use his story in your classroom. Simply highlight the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you all again very soon!


  1. · January 1, 2017

    You are so creative.Kris. Happy New Year. KT


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